It goes without saying: There is nothing good about living through a global pandemic. But this holiday season, the need to be in lockdown might be the best part of Covid for LGBTQ+ people.
As Thanksgiving approaches, many people are deciding to spend the holidays at home. No, not that “There’s no place like home for the holidays” homophobic house where you spent your childhood, but home as in the place where you actually live now, the place where you have built your own life and family. With the pandemic showing no signs of letting up, health experts are advising against travel this holiday season, giving you the perfect excuse to avoid those relatives you don’t like — and you don’t even have to feel guilty about it!
19 years ago, when I was 17 years old, I ran away from my mother’s home. I never went back and never saw her again. This has a tendency to make cis/straight people feel sorry for me, but never for an instant have I regretted leaving and starting my own life. Like many other runaway and formerly homeless LGBTQ+ folks, from that moment I was on my own. My priority became building my own life, my own queer family, and a home of my own for every day — including holidays. The queer world I found was far better than anything I left behind in my childhood home and family.
Every year, I see so many LGBTQ+ people struggling to decide whether to go “home” for Thanksgiving, where they know they won’t be accepted as who they are or that their family won’t welcome their partner into the home. Similarly, the day of, I see the fallout on social media: queer people posting the horror stories of what homophobic thing this relative said or what transphobic thing that relative did. For many LGBTQ+ people, cis/straight families of origin are a significant source of trauma, making even limited holiday visits triggering or just unpleasant experiences. (I’m a masochist, but not that kind!) I’ve never understood why people feel so compelled to spend holidays with people who don’t treat them well.
So I’ve become a bit of an expert on being home-home for the holidays– this won’t be my first year not traveling. My 2020 Thanksgiving plans look like my Thanksgiving plans for the last sixteen years: my partner and I will cook a big vegetarian feast complete with my homemade unturkey; we will eat cinnamon buns and sit in front of the TV to watch Macy’s Thanksgiving Day (well, not a parade this year, but whatever they create to meet the safety needs of Covid); I’ll watch the National Dog Show; and after, we’ll just hang around the house all day with our pets. We probably won’t get out of our pajamas. This is my idea of a perfect Thanksgiving.
Even though there is a lot of cultural pressure from advertisements and movies and even music to spend holidays with your family of origin, you don’t have to spend time with anyone who doesn’t respect you. I’m a big believer in the idea you don’t owe your family anything, including your time or your presence. Just because your mother wants you to show up for Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you have to, and Covid now provides the perfect excuse not to attend. Just blame it on the Pandemic! Not only will the fear of Covid get you out of Thanksgiving this year, but you can also take this as a chance to try out spending the holiday at your own home. And if you like it, reset traditions and repeat the experience next year (when, knock on wood, we won’t be dealing with a global pandemic).
2020 has been stressful enough; there’s absolutely no reason to further torture yourself by risking Covid to spend time with people you don’t want to see. My hope is that LGBTQ+ community as a whole will embrace what those of us who are queer runaways have already known: Family is who you choose and claim for yourself, not who raised you. Use the pandemic to your advantage by letting the family of origin know your queer self just can’t make it this year. You don’t need anyone’s permission to prioritize self-care and welfare. Instead of making yourself unhappy trying to live up to a greeting card fantasy of “going back” to some idyllic childhood house, and instead of stomaching your Trump-voting relatives, embrace making your own traditions in your true home that you have created.